New-Look Colonials Come Back on American, 3-2
Aug. 29, 2008
FAIRFAX, VA -- The GW Volleyball team started slow but finished strong in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over American Friday night in the season-opener at George Mason University's Field House in Fairfax, VA. After being outscored 50-26 in the first two sets, the Colonials roared back to win three straight sets in thrilling fashion. Perhaps most impressively, GW rallied from its 0-2 deficit behind mostly freshmen and sophomores.
Sophomore Leah Hill led the Colonials with 14.5 points while hitting .379 on a team-high 14 kills while freshman Alyssa Valentine assisted on 40 kills and added nine digs in her first collegiate match. Valentine's high school teammate, freshman MacKenzie Knox, had an impressive night by hitting .588 on 11 kills in 17 swings with six block assists for 14 points.
Things appeared bleak for GW after the Eagles raced out to a 25-16 victory in set one and obliterated the Colonials in set two, 25-10, in a game that wasn't even as close as the final score may indicate. AU took a 22-5 lead in the second set before GW forged a 5-2 burst after the set had all but been decided.
The Colonials completely turned the tables in set three by taking a quick 10-3 lead behind three service aces from junior co-captain Abby Syverson prompting an AU timeout. GW kept the heat on and built its lead to 20-14 as the Eagles seemed to wilt in the humid field house as the match wore on. The Colonials began to block attacks with regularity and ended with 11 block assists. In fact, GW ended set three with a triple block assist by Hill, Knox, and junior Katie Butz that sent a message that the momentum had turned. Butz finished with a career-high eight block assists.
Set four was relatively close before the Colonials got some separation with an 15-6 run to blow open a 7-7 tie. In the middle of GW's run, the match was delayed for several minutes to straighten out an illegal substitution by American. After a point was awarded to GW and play resumed, Knox was in the middle of the Colonials' surge smashing three straight kills during the run.
GW took the early lead in the fifth and decisive set running up a 6-1 lead before the Eagles began to battle back. AU closed to within 11-8 on an attcak error by Hill before GW scored three of the next four points for a 14-9 advantage and set point. AU would not go quietly, however, and scored three straight points to close within 14-12 to make things interesting. Hill came through with a hard kill to end the match.
"The difference between sets two and three was our passing," a relieved GW coach Jojit Coronel said afterward. "We started passing better and blocking smarter. Leah Hill and Liz Moult really stepped up when we started passing better." Regarding freshman setter Valentine, Coronel said, "She's very athletic and she knows how to win. That's one of the differences between last year and this year."
American's Rubena Sukaj, a native of Albania, led all players with 22 kills and a match-high 16 digs. Eagles setter Christina Nash assisted on 52 of AU's 62 kills while Cassandra Ricketts and Rebecca Heath added 13 kills each. Six-foot-eight junior Ann Recht was helped off the court during the first set after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury. She did not return to the match.
The victory upped the Colonials' lead to 9-5 in the all-time series with American dating back to 1975.
The GW-AU match was the first in the six-match DC Challenge, a round-robin tournament that features George Mason and Georgetown in addition to the Colonials and Eagles. GMU and Georgetown faced off later Friday in Fairfax.
GW (1-0) next plays Saturday at 11:00 a.m. against George Mason at Charles E. Smith Center before taking on Georgetown in Saturday's final match at 7 p.m. Free live statistical updates are available by going to www.GWsports.com and clicking on the GameTracker link.